This should come as no mystery by now, but I LOVE to eat. I love the preparation of food, the cultural significance of sharing food with others, I love the flavors and textures, I love the science of using food to fuel your body. Things get a little dicey, though, when you are focused on, let’s say, trying not to consistently gain 5 pounds per day and also still trying to fill my belly with all the yummy things I think about every waking minute.
I am not a naturally svelte person, I gain weight relatively easily and definitely have my mushy areas, even when I’m most in shape. If you follow lots of other healthy/clean/Paleo-ish foodie accounts on Instagram like me, you may wonder HOW IN THE HECK do they eat SO MUCH and stay so tiny?! As we all know, lots of things go into this: genetics, metabolism, amount of exercise, type of exercise, etc. Over the years I’ve struck a balance (that works for me, my lifestyle, and my body type) so that I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself of food I love, and staying at a pretty healthy weight and keeping fit. The 5 tips listed below have kept me on track and let me enjoy my ultimate favorite pastime: eating.
1. Eat your heaviest foods early in the day. If you think about this, the logic really just makes scientific sense. Sometimes I think about farmers or construction workers, and how they need to eat the most in the morning and midday to fuel their bodies for all the work they do during the day. It’s the same for us (minus the heavy lifting and extreme physical labor) – throughout the day, we are walking, moving, talking, working, exercising, etc. We need the most fuel early in the day to give us energy for all those things. Come evening, dinner doesn’t require quite the feast that the earlier meals do. The only task most of us are given after dinner is to sit, lay down, sleep. And unless you are some sort of dream-marathoner or violent thrasher (Tina Belcher), you probably don’t need a big meal for dinner. So if you love mowing down on big, hearty, beefy, carb-y meals, go right ahead, but aim to have this for breakfast rather than dinner.
2. Eat enough protein. I know, I know, this is a tired old tip from the 1995 issue of Redbook Magazine. But it’s SO TRUE. On days I don’t eat enough protein (usually in the form of lean meat), I find myself mindlessly snacking, unsure of what I’m really craving, unsure I’m even hungry. If I take a second to analyze what I’ve eaten that day, 9 times out of 10 I’ve had little to no protein.
3. Fill your plate with lots of different flavors and textures. I sometimes get into trouble (overeating) because I want to try everything and feel like I won’t be satisfied unless I do. So here’s the secret – try everything! Just make sure it’s not an entire serving of everything. Fill your plate with tastes of what you’re craving (making sure you’re still getting enough fiber, protein, healthy fats, etc.) so that your senses are satisfied and entertained, making it more likely that you won’t go back (and back and back…) to the fridge after the meal.
4. The kitchen is closed at 8:00 (or 9:00) p.m. I’m going to be honest, I hate this one. And I’m really bad at sticking to it. The munchies always strike hardest late at night (amiright!?) and it’s really hard to resist the snack cupboard when you’re lounging around in your comfy jammies and watching The Bachelor by yourself (I don’t do that……). But if you go back to tip #1, you gotta quit the late night snacking if you want to forgo unneeded weight gain.
5. You gotta do your cardio. Hey, hey, hey, before you close out of your browser and slam your laptop shut, hear me out. I’m not saying you need to go and buy a gym membership and slave away on the elliptical starting tomorrow, but if you enjoy eating as much as I do, and especially on days you are not being active, you need something to balance it out. If this mean going for a 10-minute walk – GREAT! If this means upping your daily walk to a light jog – YES! If this means stretching out your usual run from 1 mile to 2 – perfect. I started realizing how important this was only recently, when I started training for a 5K, and began running more consistently, and for longer distances.